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  #1  
Old 11-03-2015
Chris
 
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Default Lopsided

I've always avoided freestyle because I didn't get passed being a poor swimmer. I always found freestyle exhausting and a struggle to stay afloat never mind move through the water. An all round unhappy experience.
I started using the TI method and course notes two weeks ago. Bit of a revelation. I'm now a lot happier in the water and I'm enjoying my swimming.
I'm still rubbish but I've improved a lot and can see where I need to improve. As the book says, you need to try, and to fail, to understand what you need to do to improve. It can be surprising where you pick up information on how you're doing.
I've been using a Finis snorkel to build a basic stroke. At times everything clicks and movement is fluid and smooth. Very satisfying. I've a problem with consistency, but that will come with time (and practise, I think my core is letting me down after a while).
I don't want to grow too dependant on the snorkel so I started breathing drills today. I had felt my stroke was coming together well until I did. After a bit of coughing and spluttering I got into a reasonable rhythm and included a couple of breaths on my right during whole-stroke. I then extended my breathing pattern to every third stroke. Could I breath on my left? Not a bit of it. Not even close. I tried reducing to a two stroke pattern solely breathing on the left without improvement. Turns out I'm completely lopsided.
This also makes me question the symmetry of my stroke. It can't be balanced if I'm having trouble on my left...
So, more practise it is then. Just as well I'm enjoying myself.
It does help when you can see progress.
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  #2  
Old 11-04-2015
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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Hi Chris

Welcome! As one who until a few years ago could swim only breaststroke, sidestroke and Old English backstroke ( double arm backstroke with inverted breaststroke kick) and had failed repeatedly to learn the crawl, I can appreciate the pleasure you feel in at last being able to swim front crawl, and perhaps also back crawl.

At first, having learnt to swim a passable crawl from the original TI book, I found breathing to the 'wrong' side very difficult, but after several years working on it it is now becoming much easier. Whether my stroke is much improved as a result I can't really say, but these little triumphs add to the joy of swimming.

Butterfly is still an ongoing challenge and may have to be abandoned, but I'm still hoping for the breakthrough.

There are lots of helpful hints about bilateral breathing on the forum and I'm sure you will soon be almost as comfortable on your not so good side as on your good side.
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  #3  
Old 11-04-2015
Mike Wray Mike Wray is offline
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Chris,
I'm sure it is good practice to try to even out your stroke but I know some very good swimmers who breath to one side only. I don't think it is so important to breath both sides. You can still develop a relaxed and efficient style even if you are one sided.

Last edited by Mike Wray : 11-04-2015 at 12:26 PM.
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  #4  
Old 11-04-2015
Chris
 
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I'm still at the stage where I'm experimenting with balance. Just when I think I have it locked down something changes. Something small that I don't notice in itself but which has a marked effect on the ease with which I move through the water.
I usually start well with good distance travelled per stroke, then notice a reduction in travel and corresponding increase in effort. I've looked at my stroke, my reach and length are still long but it feels like I'm working instead of flowing forward. It feels like I'm not rotating as far as when the set begins. I'm not benefiting forum the weight shift as I should. Maybe I need to work on my core, or my focus. Probably both ��
Strangely enough I found whole stroke easier without the snorkel to distract me. Apart from the breathing bit...
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  #5  
Old 11-04-2015
andyinnorway andyinnorway is offline
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If I could change one thing about how I learnt TI 5 years ago it would be to learn to breathe on both sides from the start.

If you only breathe to one side you will become lopsided but you will also get comfortable with one side and then wont want to feel less able on the other side so will avoid it, and avoid it, and avoid it.

I've left all my vanity in the locker room the last month and am working only on bilateral breathing - flip turns and better breastroke.

Personally, I've found my weak side breathing has improved quicker breathing every 3 strokes than doing single lengths of alternate sides.
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  #6  
Old 11-04-2015
Danny Danny is offline
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A tri-athlete at my pool, who is trying to improve his freestyle, recently asked me if I could help him understand why he was crossing his centerline when spearing on one side. After watching him, it seemed to me that he was rotating asymmetrically, because he was breathing on only one side, and he had to cross the centerline in order to compensate for the over-rotation on one side. If you learn to swim breathing on only one side, I think it is almost unavoidable that you will develop an asymmetric stroke. So how bad is that? Well, it seems to me that I see a lot of elite athletes with asymmetric strokes, so it obviously isn't the kiss of death. What often happens is that they develop a loping style to accomodate their one-sided breathing.

So there are some choices here. I think TI takes the stand that asymmetry is inefficient, and in some sense they are clearly correct in this. On the other hand, mastering freestyle involves a lot of compromises between efficiency, indivdual anatomy and motor skills. If you can learn symmetric breathing, I think you will benefit from it, but it isn't a show stopper if you can't.

I echo Andy's sentiment that alternate breathing is better than changing sides on alternating lengths. Lately I have been pushing tempo and get out of breath, so that alternate breathing isn't always an option for me. I find that if I keep breathing on the same side, my rotation becomes asymmetrical and I have to go over to breath on the other side mid-length to even things back out. It's important to note that an uneven rotation is probably screwing up your catch on at least one side. Maybe two-and-two isn't a bad pattern, but you keeping your body rotation symmetric is much easier if you are breathing on both sides.
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  #7  
Old 11-05-2015
terry terry is offline
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Default Bilateral Bliss

Chris
A warm welcome to you--and some encouragement about bilateral breathing. I've often written about my first epiphany as a swim coach, which came in the first 10 minutes of the first workout I ever conducted, in August 1972. During an 800 FS warmup, I noticed that all 12 members of my U.S. Merchant Marine Academy team had asymmetrical strokes--torquing to whichever side they breathed on. The next day I gave the same warmup, but instructed them to breathe on the 'wrong' side. And for 10 to 12 minutes I had a symmetrical team.

Despite this observation I didn't commit to bilateral breathing in my own swimming for another 20 years. Fortunately, the first time I did--by committing to breathe to the right for a full practice--I was in a 50m pool and discovered that--though it felt awkward--I took two fewer strokes than when breathing to my 'better' side. I realized I had a lot of inbred inefficiencies on my natural breathing side, but a blank slate on the other side. That provided all the motivation I've needed. I've continued to breathe bilaterally for almost 25 years now and my left-side breathing has become FAR more efficient due to comparing it with my right side. Now, while swimming, I often forget which side is my 'natural' bcz the right side now feels so blissfully comfortable.
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  #8  
Old 11-05-2015
Chris
 
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Thank you all for taking the time to show an interest and offer advice.

I am aiming for bilateral breathing. I haven't got there yet. As with most aspects of my stroke it will take a lot of work and focus to make it as efficient and elegant as I would like it to be.

I have no problems accepting my current skill level. You need to know where you are before you can work out how to get to where you want to be. I do get the occasional funny look when I'm practising movements standing up but I can put up with that. Perhaps it would help if I stopped talking to myself :-)

There are times when it just works. This normally happens when I first get in the water, relax and swim to warm up. No real thought, just go. I feel like I'm flowing forwards. This is a fantastic feeling. Completely new to me. I started the course to learn a life skill and to meet the requirements of a swim test. I thought it would be excellent exercise, but a lot of hard work. I hoped I could overcome the tension I have always felt in the water. I really did not expect to enjoy it.

I would not have believed I could have become so comfortable in the water in such a short length of time. This has given me the confidence and motivation to continue despite all of my short-comings. It is a lot easier to practise when you see real improvement.

I'm back in the pool this evening, trying to work out why my distance travelled per stroke reduces during the course of the practise. I'll include a number of breathing sets to break it up a little. I found this helps me avoid losing focus, as I have when concentrated only on one thing for long periods.

I think the problem will be caused by a reduction in rotation, or a slackening of core tension which reduces the benefit of weight transfer to my new lead hand.
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  #9  
Old 11-05-2015
Danny Danny is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris View Post
I do get the occasional funny look when I'm practising movements standing up but I can put up with that. Perhaps it would help if I stopped talking to myself :-)
I do occasionally get embarrassed when caught practicing my stroke mechanics in front of a mirror in a restroom...:o)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris View Post
I'm back in the pool this evening, trying to work out why my distance travelled per stroke reduces during the course of the practise. I'll include a number of breathing sets to break it up a little. I found this helps me avoid losing focus, as I have when concentrated only on one thing for long periods.

I think the problem will be caused by a reduction in rotation, or a slackening of core tension which reduces the benefit of weight transfer to my new lead hand
I think most of us experience an increase in SPL over the course of a workout. Stroke efficiency requires fine motor skills, and these small muscles and the ability to detect position in the water are the first to fatigue. That said, it is well worth the effort to understand what it is that you are having trouble doing when you fatigue. It is often the case that we try to maintain the same stroke rate throughout a workout, and this becomes more difficult as we get tired. So, if you feel your stroke becoming more inefficient, try slowing your stroke rate down to see if you can restore something of the losses you perceive.

There is a balancing act in all of this. I swim fastest at the beginning of a workout, and my goal as the workout progresses is to find ways to minimize the slowing of my tempo (not eliminate it, just minimize it!) by slowing my stroke rate just enough to restore enough distance per stroke to maintain my goals. In the end, my goal is often to feel like I am swimming efficiently, even as I fatigue, but all of this depends on what you are trying to teach or condition yourself to do.

Sounds like you have a good sense of self observation and also the patience with yourself to work on things that don't come immediately. All that can only work to your pleasure and improvement. Good luck!
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  #10  
Old 11-06-2015
Chris
 
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Interesting session.

I think the issue with inconsistent movement was caused by a lack of tension in my core. I felt I was wriggling or "snaking" through the water instead of holding shape and flowing forward. It felt better when I drew in my stomach a little. I felt that this kept me straight and also extended my reach a little. It certainly improved consistency.

I had problems with breathing again. Slowing everything down to increase the time available to complete the action helped. I noticed the problem was not a difference in rotation but rather a difference in head position. I have been trying to complete the movement to air correctly, with the head following the stroke-arm out of the water. I found I had two issues with this. The first is the basic impulse to lift your head to breathe, the second the place you put your head in relation to the resting arm as it moves forward. When breathing to my right my head held position in line with my body and in relation to my arm giving me the space and clean air to breathe. When breathing to my left I found my head lifted slightly which pulled my mouth forward out of the air pocket into the water. I worked at this for a while and found that if I looked back a little on the left it pulled my head back into alignment. This was enough for me to complete a lap breathing bilaterally. It is not what it should be, but it is a big improvement on what it was.

Next thing to work on is why I feel that I sink when breathing to the left. To the right feels fine.

All told, a good session. Progress made and lots to think about.
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